Involving children in planning, selecting, assembling, and preparing foods can help build children’s food skills, expose kids to new or less familiar foods, and help make everyone feel a part of family food choices. Doing these together as a family is an important way to help children develop skills for navigating their food environment. The power of adults modeling nutrient dense food choices should not be underestimated. An adult in a child’s life is a strong role model and influencer in their food selection and in willingness to try new foods. If you like it and get excited about it, so will the younger people in your life.
Involving children in planning, selecting, assembling, and cooking may sound like a huge undertaking, but including them gives them a say in what is offered and eaten. Scale the job based on their age and capabilities.
Examples for young children
- Choose fruits or vegetables at the market by color
- Wash fruits and vegetables
- Add premeasured ingredients to recipes
- Select serving bowls or plates
- Suggest how the food should be placed on a plate
Examples for older children
- Help plan what to purchase at a market by suggesting foods that they will eat for snacks or meals
- Watch Youtube videos on safe knife skills (good videos on food skills for kids by Chop Chop Magazine)
- Calculate or measure ingredients for a recipe (reinforcing math skills too!)
- Engage in a variety of food preparation tasks, such as juicing and zesting citrus fruit, peeling fruits or veggies, mixing or folding in ingredients
Examples for teens
- Sautéing onions, peppers and other foods
- Planning one or more dinner meals per week
- Preparing eggs by scrambling or hard boiling
- Tackling recipes on their own to build cooking skills
- Choosing nutrient dense choices on a take out menu (including a protein, vegetable and whole grain)
The time you invest helping children build skills around food may also have a big reward, a meal planned or cooked for you!
Happy and healthful eating,
Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN
Nutritious and delicious foods for the whole family? It can be done. If you are interested in finding ways, contact me [email protected]